Get Out The Tractors

tractorWaiting with Courage- Get Out the Tractors

Luke 3:1-6

December 6, 2015


One year when I was in middle school,

we visited  my mother’s family in Iowa,

and a cousin suggested that maybe we’d like to tour the John Deere factory.


Our other choice was Herbert Hoover’s boyhood home…

We chose Hoover.


I wasn’t particularly interested in tractors at the time,

but this week listen to John the Baptizer’s

talk of making paths straight,

filling valleys and lowering mountains,

straightening crooked paths,

and smoothing rough ways…

Doesn’t it make you think of John Deere?


John Deere makes lots of kinds of tractors.

According to their website, there are

row crop tractors, specialty tractors, utility tractors,

compact utility tractors, sub-compact tractors and more.


If you want to buy a tractor,

there’s even an app to buy the perfect tractor for your needs…

  • Climate-controlled cab or open?
  • Automatic or manual?
  • How high do you need material to be lifted?
  • How much horsepower?
  • What is the type of material you’re working with?


When you’re in Iowa and need to prepare the way – any way –

mountain, valley, crooked or rough,

green and yellow has a tractor for you.


John the Baptist calls for us to get out the tractors –

to prepare the way.

He quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah,

who says that a new path must be made.

A new path to prepare for God’s arrival.

That new path will require earthshaking transformation.[i]


We are in need of earthshaking transformation.

We are in need of a new path.


I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of having to add new places to our prayers every week.

San Bernadino, Savannah, Colorado Springs, Roseburg, Chattanooga, Charleston, Isla Vista,

and the list goes on and on.


There are so many that I’ve even forgotten about many of them…

Mass shootings in the US have become so commonplace,

we can’t keep track of them all!


We are in need of earthshaking transformation.

We need a new path.

We need to prepare a way for God’s arrival.

And maybe we need to be willing to get out the tractors –

to make it happen.


If only there were a John Deere for that.


Advent is about waiting.


Usually when I think about waiting,

the image of sitting in a waiting room comes to mind.

I’m sitting on an uncomfortable chair,

flipping through old magazines.


I’m waiting for someone else to do something…

someone else to call my name;

someone else to tell me when it’s time and what to do.


With Advent waiting,

the image of candles not yet lit and an empty manger come to mind.


And I’m still waiting for someone else to do something…

This time of year I’m waiting for God to do something…

waiting for God to show up;

waiting for God to act.


But what if waiting isn’t always so passive?

What if God is depending on us to prepare the way this Advent?

What if John the Baptist’s voice is telling us to do something to prepare the way?

  • to do something about gun violence
  • to do something about climate change
  • to do something about racism and refugees
  • to do something to make a new path
  • to do something to make an opening for God


What if John the Baptist’s voice is telling us to get out our tractors

and bring down injustice

and straighten systems that are unfair.


What if John the Baptist’s voice is talking to us…

and not the politicians or the rich and powerful.


I find it easy to blame the troubles of the world on politicians….

to get frustrated with what they’re doing or not doing.


But John wasn’t talking to politicians.

He wasn’t in Jerusalem.

He wasn’t talking to the emperor or the governor or the high priest.


John was out in the middle of nowhere.

He was in a place no one of importance would bother with.

He was in the wilderness.

He was talking to us.

“You prepare the way.”

“You do something.”


Teddy Roosevelt once said:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the [one] who points out how the strong [one] stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [one] who is actually in the arena…”


John the Baptist calls for us to get into the arena,

to begin the work of filling, lowering, straightening, and smoothing…

to prepare the way for God’s arrival –

John wants us to get out the tractors!


Waiting isn’t always passive.

Waiting sometimes includes choosing to act…choosing to get into the arena.

This second candle we lit stands for courage in our waiting.


“Prepare the way of the Lord,” John says.

What are we doing to prepare?

We need a new path.

We need earthshaking transformation.


Luke begins our passage

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius,

when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea” and so on…


Maybe today we can hear,


In the fifteenth year of the 21st century,

when Barack Obama was President of the United States

and Terry McAuliffe governor of Virginia,

and Dick Graham was bishop of the Metropolitan DC synod

and Elizabeth Eaton was presiding bishop of the ELCA,

the word of the Lord came not to any of them but to us!


What will we do with what we’ve heard?

Have courage!




[i] Judith Jones,


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